Psychology Today Article Review “A Psychiatric Diagnosis is Not a Disease”

This week I read a fantastic article in Psychology Today that highlights one of the primary issues with bipolar diagnosis and treatment. The article titled “A Psychiatric Diagnosis is Not a Disease” by Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D., points out that the diagnoses listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) identify descriptions of symptoms, not causes.
In the article Dr. Shedler states,

“Confusion arises because medical diagnoses often point to etiology—underlying biological causes. This is why “chest pain” is not a disease, it is a symptom. Atherosclerosis, myocarditis, and pneumonia are diseases. They are underlying biological conditions that can cause chest pain.

Psychiatric diagnoses are categorically different because they are merely descriptive, not explanatory. It’s not that we don’t know their causes yet. It’s that DSM diagnoses cannot speak to causes, now or ever. The DSM was not designed to speak to causes, only describe effects.”

The problem with the DSM diagnosis of bipolar disorder is that it promotes the misconception that an underlying cause has been identified when in fact the diagnosis is simply describing a symptom cluster.

Dr. Shedler further clarifies:

“The ever-expanding list of entries in the DSM sound a lot like medical diseases, especially with the ominously-appended term disorder, but they are not. If we speak of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder as if they were equivalent to pneumonia or diabetes, we are committing a logical fallacy called a category error. A category error means ascribing a property to something that cannot possess it—like emotions to a rock.”

A bipolar diagnosis does not need to be a life-sentence. If you become curious about what is causing your bipolar symptoms and then treat the source of the symptoms, you can heal.

To learn more about healing your bipolar symptoms, check out The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Three: The Steps to Heal Your Disorder.

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